*Image on homepage of snow leopard captured on camera trap by B. Munkhtsog/Irbis Mongolia
Snow leopard captured on remote trail camera (photo: Mongolian Academy of Sciences/Irbis Mongolia)
Partners: Dr. B. Munkhtsog, Mongolian Academy of Sciences and Irbis Mongolia; Dr. Jan Janečka, Duquesne University; Nomadic Nature Conservation (NNC)
The Snow Leopard Conservancy’s program in this important range country was initiated in 2007. Dr. B. Munkhtsog, Director of the NGO Irbis Mongolia and Senior Scientist with the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, asked Rodney Jackson and Dr. Jan Janecka of Texas A&M University to train Mongolian biologists in camera trapping and noninvasive genotyping of scats. This proved to be the beginning of our multi-nation applied genetics program described in the section on monitoring of snow leopards.
In the Gobi Desert’s Tost Uul Mountains, two surveys were undertaken which suggested that genetic surveys may have great potential for rapid and cost-effective assessments of snow leopard population size. Papers describing these surveys are in our Publications section:
The paper on scat samples was the Associate Editor’s Choice for papers published in 2010 in Animal Conservation, the Journal of the Zoological Society London.
Dr. Rodney Jackson and Dr. B. Munkhtsog with sedated snow leopard (photo: SLC)
In September 2008, our field team attached a satellite collar to an adult male snow leopard, which they named Togoldor (very great, amazing, incredible). For a year, the collar transmitted GPS locations before it automatically fell off, as programmed. This animation tracks Togoldor’s movements as he travels around his home range. We concluded that Togoldor was the dominant resident male on the mountain. We believe he made a large kill every 10-21 days as indicated by the red dots. Such sites are clumped in selected parts of the mountain which we believe support more ibex, the primary large prey of snow leopards in Mongolia.
Togoldor showed a strong preference for the northern edge of Baga Bogd, where the human population is lowest. We detected 28 sites where we suspected he made a kill and fed over the next few days.
We were surprised that Togoldor never left Baga Bogd. This reinforces how vital it is to protect these isolated mountains linking snow leopards between the South Gobi and core habitat elsewhere in Mongolia. Thus, we are expanding our genetic surveys to help identify and map the main breeding populations linking the South Gobi with Russia’s Altai-Sayan mountains.
We believe that conservation efforts targeting the border area will promote recovery of the depleted Russian snow leopard population. In addition to the Mongolian study, a multinational team is examining the genetic diversity of snow leopards in Russia, Pakistan, China, Nepal, and Tajikistan.
Nomadic Nature Trunks (photo: Nomadic Nature Conservation)
The Conservancy partners with the women-run Mongolian NGO Nomadic Nature Conservation (NNC) to refine and improve the Mongolian educational standards by incorporating ecology and conservation related concepts on a national level. Through their charming and effective Nomadic Nature Trunk program, innovative educators in Mongolia have created a mobile education project that brings activity-based instruction in natural sciences and environmental conservation to rural Mongolian schools and communities. By supporting NNC, the Conservancy is furthering its goals of conservation-action and community education that both honors and encourages indigenous belief and histories.